Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Atlantic Monthly, Volume 6, Issue 35, September, 1860 by Various

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download Atlantic Monthly, Volume 6, Issue 35, September, 1860 pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

ought to have tapped.

This goitre of egotism is so frequent among notable persons, that we
must infer some strong necessity in Nature which it subserves,--such as
we see in the sexual attraction. The preservation of the species was a
point of such necessity, that Nature has secured it at all hazards by
immensely overloading the passion, at the risk of perpetual crime and
disorder. So egotism has its root in the cardinal necessity by which
each individual persists to be what he is.

This individuality is not only not inconsistent with culture, but is the
basis of it. Every valuable nature is there in its own right; and the
student we speak to must have a mother-wit invincible by his culture,
which uses all books, arts, facilities, and elegancies of intercourse,
but is never subdued and lost in them. He only is a well-made man who
has a good determination. And the end of culture is, not to destroy
this,--God forbid!--but to train away all impediment and mixture,
and leave nothing but pure power. Our student must have a style and
determination, and be a master in his own specialty. But, having this,
he must put it behind him. He must have a catholicity, a power to see
with a free and disengaged look every object. Yet is this private
interest and self so overcharged, that, if a man seeks a companion
who can look at objects for their own sake, and without affection
or self-reference, he will find the fewest who will give him that
satisfaction; whilst most men are afflicted with a coldness, an
incuriosity, as soon as any object does not connect with their
self-love. Though they talk of the object before them, they are thinking
of themselves, and their vanity is laying little traps for your

But after a man has discovered that there are limits to the interest
which his private history has for mankind, he still converses with his
family, or a few companions,--perhaps with half a dozen personalities
that are famous in his neighborhood. In Boston, the question of life is
the names of some eight or ten men. Have you seen Mr. Allston, Doctor
Channing, Mr. Adams, Mr. Webster, Mr. Greenough? Have you heard Everett,
Garrison, Father Taylor, Theodore Parker? Have you talked with Messieurs
Turbinewheel, Summitlevel, and Lacofrupees? Then you may as well die. In
New York, the question is of some other eight, or ten, or twenty. Have
you seen a few lawyers, merchants, and brokers,--two or three scholars,
two or three capitalists, two or three editors of newspapers? New
York is a sucked orange. All conversation is at an end, when we have
discharged ourselves of a dozen personalities, domestic or imported,
which make up our American existence. Nor do we expect anybody to be
other than a faint copy of these heroes.

Life is very narrow. Bring any club or company of intelligent men
together again after ten years, and if the presence of some penetrating
and calming genius could dispose them to frankness, what a confusion
of insanities would come up! The "causes" to which we have sacrificed,
Tariff or Democracy, Whiggism or Abolition, Temperance or Socialism,
would show like roots of bitterness and dragons of wrath: and our
talents are as mischievous as if each had been seized upon by some bird
of prey, which had whisked him away from fortune, from truth, from the
dear society of the poets, some zeal, some bias, and only when he was
now gray and nerveless was it relaxing its claws, and he awaking to
sober perceptions.

Culture is the suggestion from certain best thoughts, that a man has a
range of affinities, through which he can modulate the violence of any
master-tones that have a droning preponderance in his scale, and succor
him against himself. Culture redresses his balance, puts him among his
equals and superiors, revives the delicious sense of sympathy, and warns
him of the dangers of solitude and repulsion.

'Tis not a compliment, but a disparagement, to consult a man only on
horses, or on steam, or on theatres, or on eating, or on books, and,
whenever he appears, considerately to turn the conversation to the
bantling he is known to fondle. In the Norse heaven of our forefathers,
Thor's house had five hundred and forty floors: and Man's house has five
hundred and forty floors. His excellence is facility of adaptation,
and of transition through many related points to wide contrasts and
extremes. Culture kills his exaggeration, his conceit of his village or
his city. We must leave our pets at home when we go into the street, and
meet men on broad grounds of good meaning and good sense. No performance
is worth loss of geniality. 'Tis a cruel price we pay for certain fancy
goods called fine arts and philosophy. In the Norse legend, Allfadir did
not get a drink of Mimir's spring, (the fountain of wisdom,) until he
left his eye in pledge. And here is a pedant that cannot unfold his
wrinkles, nor conceal his wrath at interruption by the best, if their
conversation do not fit his impertinency,--here is he to afflict us with
his personalities. 'Tis incident to scholars, that each of them fancies
he is pointedly odious in his community. Draw him out of this limbo of
irritability. Cleanse with healthy blood his parchment skin. You restore
to him his eyes which he left in pledge at Mimir's spring. If you are
the victim of your doing, who cares what you do? We can spare your
opera, your gazetteer, your chemic analysis, your history, your
syllogisms. Your man of genius pays dear for his distinction. His head
runs up into a spire, and, instead of a healthy man, merry and wise, he
is some mad dominie. Nature is reckless of the individual. When she has
points to carry, she carries them. To wade in marshes and sea-margins is
the destiny of certain birds; and they are so accurately made for this,
that they are imprisoned in those places. Each animal out of its
habitat would starve. To the physician, each man, each woman, is an
amplification of one organ. A soldier, a locksmith, a bank-clerk, and
a dancer could not exchange functions. And thus we are victims of

The antidotes against this organic egotism are--the range and variety
of attractions, as gained by acquaintance with the world, with men of
merit, with classes of society, with travel, with eminent persons, and
with the high resources of philosophy, art, and religion: books, travel,
society, solitude.

The hardiest skeptic, who has seen a horse broken, a pointer trained, or
who has visited a menagerie, or the exhibition of the Industrious Fleas,
will not deny the validity of education. "A boy," says Plato, "is the
most vicious of all wild beasts"; and, in the same spirit, the old
English poet Gascoigne says, "A boy is better unborn than untaught." The
city breeds one kind of speech and manners; the back-country a different
style; the sea another; the army a fourth. We know that an army which
can be confided in may be formed by discipline,--that by systematic
discipline all men may be made heroes. Marshal Lannes said to a French
officer, "Know, Colonel, that none but a poltroon will boast that he
never was afraid." A great part of courage is the courage of having done
the thing before. And, in all human action, those faculties will be
strong which are used. Robert Owen said, "Give me a tiger, and I will
educate him." 'Tis inhuman to want faith in the power of education,
since to meliorate is the law of Nature; and men are valued precisely as
they exert onward or meliorating force. On the other hand, poltroonery
is the acknowledging an inferiority to be incurable.

Incapacity of melioration is the only mortal distemper. There are people
who can never understand a trope, or any second or expanded sense given
to your words, or any humor,--but remain literalists, after hearing the
music and poetry and rhetoric and wit of seventy or eighty years. They
are past the help of surgeon or clergy. But even these can understand
pitchforks and the cry of "Fire!"--and I have noticed in some of this
class a marked dislike of earthquakes.

Let us make our education brave and preventive. Politics is an
after-work, a poor patching. We are always a little late. The evil is
done, the law is passed, and we begin the up-hill agitation for repeal
of that of which we ought to have prevented the enacting. We shall
one day learn to supersede politics by education. What we call our
root-and-branch reforms of slavery, war, gambling, intemperance, is only
medicating the symptoms. We must begin higher up,--namely, in Education.

Our arts and tools give to him who can handle them much the same
advantage over the novice as if you extended his life ten, fifty, or a
hundred years. And I think it the part of good sense to provide every
fine soul with such culture, that it shall not, at thirty or forty
years, have to say, "This which I might do is made hopeless through my
want of weapons."

But it is conceded that much of our training fails of effect,--that all
success is hazardous and rare,--that a large part of our cost and pains
is thrown away. Nature takes the matter into her own hands, and, though
we must not omit any jot of our system, we can seldom be sure that it
has availed much, or that as much good would not have accrued from a
different system.

Books, as containing the finest records of human wit, must always enter
into our notion of culture. The best heads that ever existed, Pericles,
Plato, Julius Caesar, Shakspeare, Goethe, Milton, were well-read,
universally educated men, and quite too wise to undervalue letters.
Their opinion has weight, because they had means of knowing the opposite
opinion. We look that a great man should be a good reader, or in
proportion to the spontaneous power should be the assimilating power.
Good criticism is very rare, and always precious. I am always happy to
meet persons who perceive the transcendent superiority of Shakspeare
over all other writers. I like people who like Plato. Because this love
does not consist with self-conceit.

But books are good only as far as a boy is ready for them. He sometimes
gets ready very slowly. You send your child to the schoolmaster; but
'tis the schoolboys who educate him. You send him to the Latin
class; but much of his tuition comes on his way to school, from the
shop-windows. You like the strict rules and the long terms; and he finds
his best leading in a by-way of his own, and refuses any companions but
of his choosing. He hates the grammar and _Gradus_, and loves guns,
fishing-rods, horses, and boats. Well, the boy is right; and you are not
fit to direct his bringing-up, if your theory leaves out his gymnastic
training. Archery, cricket, gun and fishing-rod, horse and boat, are all
educators, liberalizers; and so are dancing, dress, and the street-talk;
and--provided only the boy has resources, and is of a noble and
ingenuous strain--these will not serve him less than the books. He
learns chess, whist, dancing, and theatricals. The father observes that
another boy has learned algebra and geometry in the same time. But the
first boy has acquired much more than these poor games along with them.
He is infatuated for weeks with whist and chess; but presently will find
out, as you did, that, when he rises from the game too long played, he
is vacant and forlorn, and despises himself. Thenceforward it takes
place with other things, and has its due weight in his experience. These
minor skills and accomplishments--for example, dancing--are tickets of
admission to the dress-circle of mankind, and the being master of them
enables the youth to judge intelligently of much on which otherwise he
would give a pedantic squint. Landor said, "I have suffered more from my
bad dancing than from all the misfortunes and miseries of my life
put together." Provided always the boy is teachable, (for we are not
proposing to make a statue out of punk,) football, cricket, archery,
swimming, skating, climbing, fencing, riding, are lessons in the art of
power, which it is his main business to learn,--riding specially, of
which Lord Herbert of Cherbury said, "A good rider on a good horse is as
much above himself and others as the world can make him." Besides, the
gun, fishing-rod, boat, and horse constitute, among all who use them,
secret freemasonries.

They are as if they belonged to one club.

There is also a negative value in these arts. Their chief use to the
youth is, not amusement, but to be known for what they are, and not to
remain to him occasions of heartburn. We are full of superstitions. Each
class fixes its eyes on the advantages it has not: the refined, on rude
strength; the democrat, on birth and breeding. One of the benefits of a
college-education is, to show the boy its little avail. I knew a leading
man in a leading city, who, having set his heart on an education at the
university and missed it, could never quite feel himself the equal
of his own brothers who had gone thither. His easy superiority to
multitudes of professional men could never quite countervail to him this
imaginary defect. Balls, riding, wine-parties, and billiards pass to a
poor boy for something fine and romantic, which they are not; and a free
admission to them on an equal footing, if it were possible, only once or
twice, would be worth ten times its cost, by undeceiving him.

I am not much an advocate for travelling, and I observe that men run
away to other countries because they are not good in their own, and run
back to their own because they pass for nothing in the new places. For
the most part, only the light characters travel. Who are you that have
no task to keep you at home? I have been quoted as saying captious
things about travel; but I mean to do justice. I think there is a
restlessness in our people which argues want of character. All educated
Americans, first or last, go to Europe,--perhaps because it is their
mental home, as the invalid habits of this country might suggest. An
eminent teacher of girls said, "The idea of a girl's education is
whatever qualifies them for going to Europe." Can we never extract this
tape-worm of Europe from the brain of our country-men? One sees very
well what their fate must be. He that does not fill a place at home
cannot abroad. He only goes there to hide his insignificance in a larger
crowd. You do not think you will find anything there which you have
not seen at home? The stuff of all countries is just the same. Do you
suppose there is any country where they do not scald milkpans, and
swaddle the infants, and burn the brushwood, and broil the fish? What is
true anywhere is true everywhere. And let him go where he will, he can
find only so much beauty or worth as he carries.

Of course, for some men travel may be useful. Naturalists, discoverers,
and sailors are born. Some men are made for couriers, exchangers,
envoys, missionaries, bearers of despatches, as others are for farmers
and working-men. And if the man is of a light and social turn, and
Nature has aimed to make a legged and winged creature, framed for
locomotion, we must follow her hint, and furnish him with that breeding
which gives currency as sedulously as with that which gives worth. But
let us not be pedantic, but allow to travel its full effect. The boy
grown up on the farm which he has never left is said in the country to
have had _no chance_, and boys and men of that condition look upon work
on a railroad or drudgery in a city as opportunity. Poor country-boys of
Vermont and Connecticut formerly owed what knowledge they had to their
peddling-trips to the Southern States. California and the Pacific Coast
are now the university of this class, as Virginia was in old times. "To
have _some chance_" is their word. And the phrase, "to know the world,"
or to travel, is synonymous with all men's ideas of advantage and
superiority. No doubt, to a man of sense travel offers advantages. As
many languages as he has, as many friends, as many arts and trades,
so many times is he a man. A foreign country is a point of comparison
where-from to judge his own. One use of travel is, to recommend the
books and works of home; (we go to Europe to be Americanized;) and
another, to find men. For as Nature has put fruits apart in latitudes,
a new fruit in every degree, so knowledge and fine moral quality she
lodges in distant men. And thus, of the six or seven teachers whom each
man wants among his contemporaries, it often happens that one or two of
them live on the other side of the world.

Moreover, there is in every constitution a certain solstice, when the
stars stand still in our inward firmament, and when there is required
some foreign force, some diversion or alternative, to prevent
stagnation. And, as a medical remedy, travel seems one of the best. Just
as a man witnessing the admirable effect of ether to lull pain, and,
meditating on the contingencies of wounds, cancers, lockjaws, rejoices
in Dr. Jackson's benign discovery, so a man who looks at Paris, at
Naples, or at London, says, "If I should be driven from my own home,
here, at least, my thoughts can be consoled by the most prodigal
amusement and occupation which the human race in ages could contrive and

Akin to the benefit of foreign travel, the aesthetic value of railroads
is to unite the advantages of town and country life, neither of which we
can spare. A man should live in or near a large town, because, let his
own genius be what it may, it will repel quite as much of agreeable and
valuable talent as it draws, and, in a city, the total attraction of all
the citizens is sure to conquer, first or last, every repulsion, and
drag the most improbable hermit within its walls some day in the
year. In town he can find the swimming-school, the gymnasium, the
dancing-master, the shooting-gallery, opera, theatre, and panorama,--the
chemist's shop, the museum of natural history, the gallery of fine arts,
the national orators in their turn, foreign travellers, the libraries,
and his club. In the country he can find solitude and reading, manly
labor, cheap living, and his old shoes,--moors for game, hills for
geology, and groves for devotion. Aubrey writes, "I have heard Thomas
Hobbes say, that, in the Earl of Devon's house, in Derbyshire, there was
a good library and books enough for him, and his Lordship stored the
library with what books he thought fit to be bought. But the want
of good conversation was a very great inconvenience, and, though he
conceived he could order his thinking as well as another, yet he found
a great defect. In the country, in long time, for want of good
conversation, one's understanding and invention contract a moss on them,
like an old paling in an orchard."

Cities give us collision. 'Tis said, London and New York take the
nonsense out of a man. A great part of our education is sympathetic and
social. Boys and girls who have been brought up with well-informed and
superior people show in their manners an inestimable grace. Fuller says,
that "William, Earl of Nassau, won a subject from the King of Spain
every time he put off his hat." You cannot have one well-bred man
without a whole society of such. They keep each other up to any
high point. Especially women: it requires a great many cultivated
women,--saloons of bright, elegant, reading women, accustomed to ease
and refinement, to spectacles, pictures, sculpture, poetry, and to
elegant society,--in order that you should have one Madame de Stael.
The head of a commercial house, or a leading lawyer or politician, is
brought into daily contact with troops of men from all parts of the
country,--and those, too, the driving-wheels, the business-men of each
section,--and one can hardly suggest for an apprehensive man a
more searching culture. Besides, we must remember the high social
possibilities of a million of men. The best bribe which London offers
to-day to the imagination is, that, in such a vast variety of people
and conditions, one can believe there is room for persons of romantic
character to exist, and that the poet, the mystic, and the hero may hope
to confront their counterparts.

I wish cities could teach their best lesson,--of quiet manners. It is
the foible especially of American youth,--pretension. The mark of the
man of the world is absence of pretension. He does not make a speech; he
takes a low business-tone, avoids all brag, is nobody, dresses plainly,
promises not at all, performs much, speaks in monosyllables, hugs his
fact. He calls his employment by its lowest name, and so takes from evil
tongues their sharpest weapon. His conversation clings to the weather
and the news, yet he allows himself to be surprised into thought, and
the unlocking of his learning and philosophy. How the imagination is
piqued by anecdotes of some great man passing incognito, as a king in
gray clothes!--of Napoleon affecting a plain suit at his glittering
levee!--of Burns, or Scott, or Beethoven, or Wellington, or Goethe,
or any container of transcendent power, passing for nobody!--of
Epaminondas, "who never says anything, but will listen eternally!"--of
Goethe, who preferred trifling subjects and common expressions in
intercourse with strangers, worse rather than better clothes, and to
appear a little more capricious than he was! There are advantages in the
old hat and box-coat. I have heard, that, throughout this country, a
certain respect is paid to good broadcloth: but dress makes a little
restraint; men will not commit themselves. But the box-coat is like
wine; it unlocks the tongue, and men say what they think. An old poet

"Go far and go sparing;
For you'll find it certain,
The poorer and the baser you appear,
The more you'll look through still."[A]

[Footnote A: Beaumont and Fletcher: The Tamer Tamed.]

Not much otherwise Milnes writes, in the "Lay of the Humble":--

"To me men are for what they are,
They wear no masks with me."

'Tis odd that our people should have--not water on the brain,--but
a little gas there. A shrewd foreigner said of the Americans, that
"whatever they say has a little the air of a speech." Yet one of the
traits down in the books, as distinguishing the Anglo-Saxon, is a trick
of self-disparagement. To be sure, in old, dense countries, among a
million of good coats, a fine coat comes to be no distinction, and you
find humorists. In an English party, a man with no marked manners or
features, with a face like red dough, unexpectedly discloses wit,
learning, a wide range of topics, and personal familiarity with good men
in all parts of the world, until you think you have fallen upon some
illustrious personage. Can it be that the American forest has refreshed
some weeds of old Pictish barbarism just ready to die out,--the love of
the scarlet feather, of beads, and tinsel? The Italians are fond of
red clothes, peacock-plumes, and embroidery; and I remember, one rainy
morning in the city of Palermo, the street was in a blaze with scarlet
umbrellas. The English have a plain taste. The equipages of the grandees
are plain. A gorgeous livery indicates new and awkward city-wealth. Mr.
Pitt, like Mr. Pym, thought the title of _Mister_ good against any king
in Europe. They have piqued themselves on governing the whole world in
the poor, plain, dark committee-room which the House of Commons sat in
before the fire.

Whilst we want cities as the centres where the best things are found,
cities degrade us by magnifying trifles. The countryman finds the town
a chop-house, a barber's shop. He has lost the lines of grandeur of the
horizon, hills and plains, and, with them, sobriety and elevation. He
has come among a supple, glib-tongued tribe, who live for show, servile
to public opinion. Life is dragged down to a fracas of pitiful cares and
disasters. You say the gods ought to respect a life whose objects
are their own; but in cities they have betrayed you to a cloud of
insignificant annoyances:--

"Mirmidons, race feconde,
Enfins nous commandons;
Jupiter livre le monde
Aux mirmidons, aux mirmidons."[B]

[Footnote B: Beranger.]

'Tis heavy odds
Against the gods,
When they will match with myrmidons.
We spawning, spawning myrmidons,
Our turn to-day; we take command:
Jove gives the globe into the hand
Of myrmidons, of myrmidons.

What is odious but noise, and people who scream and bewail?--people
whose vane points always east, who live to dine, who send for the
doctor, who raddle themselves, who toast their feet on the register,
who intrigue to secure a padded chair and a corner out of the draught?
Suffer them once to begin the enumeration of their infirmities, and the
sun will go down on the unfinished tale. Let these triflers put us out
of conceit with petty comforts. To a man at work, the frost is but a
color; the rain, the wind, he forgot them when he came in. Let us learn
to live coarsely, dress plainly, and lie hard. The least habit of
dominion over the palate has certain good effects not easily estimated.
Neither will we be driven into a quiddling abstemiousness. 'Tis a
superstition to insist on a special diet. All is made at last of the
same chemical atoms.

A man in pursuit of greatness feels no little wants. How can you mind
diet, bed, dress, or salutes or compliments, or the figure you make in
company, or wealth, or even the bringing things to pass, when you think
how paltry are the machinery and the workers? Wordsworth was praised to
me, in Westmoreland, for having afforded to his country neighbors an
example of a modest household, where comfort and culture were secured
without display. And a tender boy who wears his rusty cap and outgrown
coat, that he may secure the coveted place in college and the right
in the library, is educated to some purpose. There is a great deal of
self-denial and manliness in poor and middle-class houses, in town and
country, that has not got into literature, and never will, but that
keeps the earth sweet,--that saves on superfluities, and spends on
essentials,--that goes rusty, and educates the boy,--that sells the
horse, but builds the school,--works early and late, takes two looms in
the factory, three looms, six looms, but pays off the mortgage on the
paternal farm, and then goes back cheerfully to work again.

We can ill spare the commanding social benefits of cities; they must be
used,--yet cautiously, and haughtily,--and will yield their best values
to him who best can do without them. Keep the town for occasions, but
the habits should be formed to retirement. Solitude, the safeguard of
mediocrity, is to genius the stern friend, the cold, obscure shelter
where moult the wings which will bear it farther than suns and stars. He
who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling
with the souls of other men,--from living, breathing, reading, and
writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions. "In the morning,
solitude," said Pythagoras,--that Nature may speak to the imagination,
as she does never in company, and that her favorite may make
acquaintance with those divine strengths which disclose themselves to
serious and abstracted thought. 'Tis very certain that Plato, Plotinus,
Archimedes, Hermes, Newton, Milton, Wordsworth did not live in a crowd,
but descended into it from time to time as benefactors: and the wise
instructor will press this point of securing to the young soul, in the
disposition of time and the arrangements of living, periods and habits
of solitude. The high advantage of university-life is often the mere
mechanical one, I may call it, of a separate chamber and fire,--which
parents will allow the boy without hesitation at Cambridge, but do not
think needful at home. We say solitude, to mark the character of the
tone of thought; but if it can be shared between two, or more than two,
it is happier, and not less noble. "We four," wrote Neander to his
sacred friends, "will enjoy at Halle the inward blessedness of a
_civitas Dei_, whose foundations are forever friendship. The more I know
you, the more I dissatisfy and must dissatisfy all my wonted companions.
Their very presence stupefies me. The common understanding withdraws
itself from the one centre of all existence."

Solitude takes off the pressure of present importunities, that more
catholic and humane relations may appear. The saint and poet seek
privacy to ends the most public and universal: and it is the secret of
culture, to interest the man more in his public than in his private
quality. Here is a new poem, which elicits a good many comments in
the journals and in conversation. From these it is easy, at last, to
eliminate the verdict which readers passed upon it; and that is, in the
main, unfavorable. The poet, as a craftsman, is interested only in the
praise accorded to him, and not in the censure, though it be just; and
the poor little poet hearkens only to that, and rejects the censure, as
proving incapacity in the critic. But the poet _cultivated_ becomes a
stockholder in both companies,--say Mr. Curfew,--in the Curfew stock,
and in the _humanity_ stock; and, in the last, exults as much in the
demonstration of the unsoundness of Curfew as his interest in the former
gives him pleasure in the currency of Curfew. For the depreciation of
his Curfew stock only shows the immense values of the humanity stock.
As soon as he sides with his critic against himself, with joy, he is a
cultivated man.

We must have an intellectual quality in all property and in all action,
or they are nought. I must have children, I must have events, I must
have a social state and history, or my thinking and speaking want body
or basis. But to give these accessories any value, I must know them as
contingent and rather showy possessions, which pass for more to the
people than to me. We see this abstraction in scholars, as a matter
of course: but what a charm it adds when observed in practical men!
Bonaparte, like Caesar, was intellectual, and could look at every object
for itself, without affection. Though an egotist _a l'outrance_, he
could criticize a play, a building, a character, on universal grounds,
and give a just opinion. A man known to us only as a celebrity in
politics or in trade gains largely in our esteem, if we discover that he
has some intellectual taste or skill: as when we learn of Lord Fairfax,
the Long Parliament's general, his passion for antiquarian studies; or
of the French regicide Carnot, his sublime genius in mathematics; or of
a living banker, his success in poetry; or of a partisan journalist,
his devotion to ornithology. So, if, in travelling in the dreary
wildernesses of Arkansas or Texas, we should observe on the next seat a
man reading Horace, or Martial, or Calderon, we should wish to hug him.
In callings that require roughest energy, soldiers, sea-captains, and
civil engineers sometimes betray a fine insight, if only through a
certain gentleness when off duty: a good-natured admission that there
are illusions, and who shall say that he is not their sport? We only
vary the phrase, not the doctrine, when we say that culture opens the
sense of beauty. A man is a beggar who only lives to the useful, and,
however he may serve as a pin or rivet in the social machine, cannot be
said to have arrived at self-possession. I suffer, every day, from the
want of perception of beauty in people. They do not know the charm with
which all moments and objects can be embellished,--the charm of manners,
of self-command, of benevolence. Repose and cheerfulness are the badge
of the gentleman,--repose in energy. The Greek battle-pieces are calm;
the heroes, in whatever violent actions engaged, retain a serene
aspect: as we say of Niagara, that it falls without speed. A cheerful,
intelligent face is the end of culture, and success enough; for it
indicates the purpose of Nature and wisdom attained.

When our higher faculties are in activity, we are domesticated,
and awkwardness and discomfort give place to natural and agreeable
movements. It is noticed that the consideration of the great periods and
spaces of astronomy induces a dignity of mind and an indifference
to death. The influence of fine scenery, the presence of mountains,
appeases our irritations and elevates our friendships. Even a high dome,
and the expansive interior of a cathedral, have a sensible effect
on manners. I have heard that stiff people lose something of their
awkwardness under high ceilings and in spacious halls. I think sculpture
and painting have an effect to teach us manners and abolish hurry.

But, over all, culture must reinforce from higher influx the empirical
skills of eloquence, or of politics, or of trade and the useful arts.
There is a certain loftiness of thought and power to marshal and
adjust particulars, which can come only from an insight of their whole
connection. The orator who has once seen things in their divine order
will never quite lose sight of this, and will come to affairs as from a
higher ground, and, though he will say nothing of philosophy, he will
have a certain mastery in dealing with them, and an incapableness of
being dazzled or frighted, which will distinguish his handling from that
of attorneys and factors. A man who stands on a good footing with the
heads of parties at Washington reads the rumors of the newspapers and
the guesses of provincial politicians with a key to the right and
wrong in each statement, and sees well enough where all this will end.
Archimedes will look through your Connecticut machine at a glance, and
judge of its fitness. And much more, a wise man who knows not only what
Plato, but what Saint John can show him, can easily raise the affair
he deals with to a certain majesty. Plato says, Pericles owed this
elevation to the lessons of Anaxagoras. Burke descended from a higher
sphere when he would influence human affairs. Franklin, Adams,
Jefferson, Washington, stood on a fine humanity, before which the brawls
of modern senates are but pot-house politics.

But there are higher secrets of culture, which are not for the
apprentices, but for proficients. These are lessons only for the brave.
We must know our friends under ugly masks. The calamities are our
friends. Ben Jonson specifies in his address to the Muse:--

"Get him the time's long grudge, the court's ill-will,
And, reconciled, keep him suspected still,
Make him lose all his friends, and, what is worse,
Almost all ways to any better course;
With me thou leav'st a better Muse than thee,
And which thou brought'st me, blessed Poverty."

We wish to learn philosophy by rote, and play at heroism. But the wiser
God says, Take the shame, the poverty, and the penal solitude that
belong to truth-speaking. Try the rough water, as well as the smooth.
Rough water can teach lessons worth knowing. When the state is unquiet,
personal qualities are more than ever decisive. Fear not a revolution
which will constrain you to live five years in one. Don't be so tender
at making an enemy now and then. Be willing to go to Coventry sometimes,
and let the populace bestow on you their coldest contempts. The finished
man of the world must eat of every apple once. He must hold his hatreds
also at arm's length, and not remember spite. He has neither friends nor
enemies, but values men only as channels of power.

He who aims high must dread an easy home and popular manners. Heaven
sometimes hedges a rare character about with ungainliness and odium, as
the burr that protects the fruit. If there is any great and good thing
in store for you, it will not come at the first or the second call, nor
in the shape of fashion, ease, and city drawing-rooms. Popularity is for
dolls. "Steep and craggy," said Porphyry, "is the path of the gods."
Open your Marcus Antoninus. In the opinion of the ancients, he was the
great man who scorned to shine, and who contested the frowns of Fortune.
They preferred the noble vessel too late for the tide, contending with
winds and waves, dismantled and unrigged, to her companion borne into
harbor with colors flying and guns firing. There is none of the social
goods that may not be purchased too dear, and mere amiableness must not
take rank with high aims and self-subsistency.

Bettine replies to Goethe's mother, who chides her disregard of
dress,--"If I cannot do as I have a mind, in our poor Frankfort, I shall
not carry things far." And the youth must rate at its true mark the
inconceivable levity of local opinion. The longer we live, the more we
must endure the elementary existence of men and women: and every brave
heart must treat society as a child, and never allow it to dictate.

"All that class of the severe and restrictive virtues," said Burke, "are
almost too costly for humanity." Who wishes to be severe? Who wishes
to resist the eminent and polite, in behalf of the poor and low and
impolite? and who that dares do it can keep his temper sweet, his frolic
spirits? The high virtues are not debonair, but have their redress in
being illustrious at last. What forests of laurel we bring, and the
tears of mankind, to those who stood firm against the opinion of their
contemporaries! The measure of a master is his success in bringing all
men round to his opinion twenty years later.

Let me say here, that culture cannot begin too early. In talking with
scholars, I observe that they lost on ruder companions those years of
boyhood which alone could give imaginative literature a religious and
infinite quality in their esteem. I find, too, that the chance for
appreciation is much increased by being the son of an appreciator, and
that these boys who now grow up are caught not only years too late, but
two or three births too late, to make the best scholars of. And I think
it a presentable motive to a scholar, that, as, in an old community, a
well-born proprietor is usually found, after the first heats of youth,
to be a careful husband, and to feel an habitual desire that the estate
shall suffer no harm by his administration, but shall be delivered
down to the next heir in as good condition as he received it,--so,
a considerate man will reckon himself a subject of that secular
melioration by which mankind is mollified, cured, and refined, and will
shun every expenditure of his forces on pleasure or gain, which will
jeopardize this social and secular accumulation.

The fossil strata show us that Nature began with rudimental forms,
and rose to the more complex as fast as the earth was fit for their
dwelling-place,--and that the lower perish, as the higher appear. Very
few of our race can be said to be yet finished men. We still carry
sticking to us some remains of the preceding inferior quadruped
organization. We call these millions men; but they are not yet men.
Half-engaged in the soil, pawing to get free, man needs all the music
that can be brought to disengage him. If Love, red Love, with tears
and joy,--if Want with his scourge,--if War with his cannonade,--if
Christianity with its charity,--if Trade with its money,--if Art with
its portfolios,--if Science with her telegraphs through the deeps of
space and time, can set his dull nerves throbbing, and by loud taps on
the tough chrysalis can break its walls and let the new creature emerge
erect and free,--make way, and sing paean! The age of the quadruped is
to go out,--the age of the brain and of the heart is to come in.
The time will come when the evil forms we have known can no more be
organized. Man's culture can spare nothing, wants all the material. He
is to convert all impediments into instruments, all enemies into power.
The formidable mischief will only make the more useful slave. And if one
shall read the future of the race hinted in the organic effort of Nature
to mount and meliorate, and the corresponding impulse to the Better in
the human being, we shall dare affirm that there is nothing he will not
overcome and convert, until at last culture shall absorb the chaos and
gehenna. He will convert the Furies into Muses, and the hells into


Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall-stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old moustache as I am
Is not a match for you all?

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeons
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!


It seems but yesterday, although more than thirteen years have gone
by, since I first opened the little garden-gate and walked up the path
leading to Mary Russell Mitford's cottage at Three-Mile Cross. A friend
in London had given me his card to the writer of "Our Village," and I
had promised to call on my way to Oxford, and have a half-hour's chat
over her geraniums with the charming person whose sketches I had read
with so much interest in my own country. Her cheerful voice at the
head of the stairs, telling her little maid to show me the way to her
sitting-room, sounded very musically, and I often observed in later
interviews how like a melody her tones always appeared in conversation.
Once when she read a lyrical poem, not her own, to a group of friends
assembled at her later residence, in Swallowfield, of which number it
was my good-fortune to be one, the verses came from her lips like an
exquisite chant. Her laugh had a ringing sweetness in it, rippling out
sometimes like a beautiful chime of silver bells; and when she told
a comic story, which she often did with infinite tact and grace, she
joined in with the jollity at the end, her eyes twinkling with delight
at the pleasure her narrative was always sure to bring. Her enjoyment of
a joke was something delicious, and when she heard a good thing for
the first time her exultant mirth was unbounded. As she sat in her
easy-chair, listening to a Yankee story which interested her, her "Dear
me! dear me! dear me!" (three times repeated always)

"Rang like a golden jewel down a golden stair."

The sunny summer-day was falling full on her honeysuckles, lilies, and
roses, when I first saw her face in the snug cottage at Three-Mile
Cross. As we sat together at the open casement, looking down on the
flowers that sent up their perfumes to her latticed window like fragrant
tributes from a fountain of distilled sweet waters, she pointed out,
among the neighboring farm-houses and villas, the residences of her
friends, in all of whom she seemed to have the most affectionate
interest. I noticed, as the village children went by her window, they
all stopped to bow and curtsy. One curly-headed urchin made bold to take
off his well-worn cap and wait to be recognized as "little Johnny,"--"no
great scholar," said the kind-hearted old lady to me, "but a sad rogue
among our flock of geese. Only yesterday, the young marauder was
detected by my maid with a plump gosling stuffed half-way into his
pocket!" While she was thus discoursing of Johnny's peccadilloes, the
little fellow looked up with a knowing expression, and very soon caught
in his cap a gingerbread dog, which the old lady threw to him from the
window. "I wish he loved his book as well as he relishes sweet cake,"
sighed she, as the boy kicked up his heels and disappeared down the

Full of anecdote, her conversation that afternoon ran on in a perpetual
flow of good-humor, until it was time for me to be on my way toward the
University City. From that time till she died, our friendship continued,
and, during other visits to England, I saw her frequently, driving about
the country with her in her pony-chaise, and spending many happy hours
under her cottage-roof. She was always the same cheerful spirit,
enlivening our intercourse with shrewd and pertinent observations and
reminiscences, some of which it may not be out of place to reproduce
here. Country life, its scenery and manners, she was never tired of
depicting; but not infrequently she loved to talk of those celebrities
in literature and art whom she had known intimately, with a vivacity and
sweetness of temper never-failing and delightful. I well remember, one
autumn evening, when half a dozen friends were sitting in her library
after dinner, talking with her of Tom Taylor's Life of Haydon, then
lately published, how graphically she described to us the eccentric
painter, whose genius she was among the fore-most to recognize.
The flavor of her discourse I cannot reproduce; but I was too much
interested in what she was saying to forget the main incidents she drew
for our edification, during those pleasant hours now far away in the

"I am a terrible forgetter of dates," she used to say, when any one
asked her of the time when; but for the _manner how_ she was never at a
loss. "Poor Haydon!" she began. "He was an old friend of mine, and I am
indebted to Sir William Elford, one of my dear father's correspondents
during my girlhood, for a suggestion which sent me to look at a picture
then on exhibition in London, and thus was brought about my knowledge of
the painter's existence. He, Sir William, had taken a fancy to me, and
I became his child-correspondent. Few things contribute more to that
indirect after-education, which is worth all the formal lessons of the
school-room a thousand times told, than such good-humored condescension
from a clever man of the world to a girl almost young enough to be his
granddaughter. I owe much to that correspondence, and, amongst other
debts, the acquaintance of Haydon. Sir William's own letters were most
charming,--full of old-fashioned courtesy, of quaint humor, and
of pleasant and genial criticism on literature and on art. An
amateur-painter himself, painting interested him particularly, and
he often spoke much and warmly of the young man from Plymouth, whose
picture of the 'Judgment of Solomon' was then on exhibition in London.
'You must see it,' said he, 'even if you come to town on purpose.'"--The
reader of Haydon's Life will remember that Sir William Elford, in
conjunction with a Plymouth banker named Tingecombe, ultimately
purchased the picture. The poor artist was overwhelmed with astonishment
and joy when he walked into the exhibition-room and read the label,
"Sold," which had been attached to his picture that morning before
he arrived. "My first impulse," he says in his Autobiography, "was
gratitude to God."

"It so happened," continued Miss Mitford, "that I merely passed through
London that season, and, being detained by some of the thousand and one
nothings which are so apt to detain women in the great city, I arrived
at the exhibition, in company with a still younger friend, so near the
period of closing, that more punctual visitors were moving out, and the
doorkeeper actually turned us and our money back. I persisted, however,
assuring him that I only wished to look at one picture, and promising
not to detain him long. Whether my entreaties would have carried
the point or not, I cannot tell; but half a crown did; so we stood
admiringly before the 'Judgment of Solomon.' I am no great judge of
painting; but that picture impressed me then, as it does now, as
excellent in composition, in color, and in that great quality of telling
a story which appeals at once to every mind. Our delight was sincerely
felt, and most enthusiastically expressed, as we kept gazing at the
picture, and seemed, unaccountably to us at first, to give much pleasure
to the only gentleman who had remained in the room,--a young and very
distinguished-looking person, who had watched with evident amusement our
negotiation with the doorkeeper. Beyond indicating the best position to
look at the picture, he had no conversation with us; but I soon surmised
that we were seeing the painter, as well as his painting; and when, two
or three years afterwards, a friend took me by appointment to view the
'Entry into Jerusalem,' Haydon's next great picture, then near its
completion, I found I had not been mistaken.

"Haydon was, at that period, a remarkable person to look at and listen
to. Perhaps your American word _bright_ expresses better than any other
his appearance and manner. His figure, short, slight, elastic, and
vigorous, looked still more light and youthful from the little
sailor's-jacket and snowy trousers which formed his painting costume.
His complexion was clear and healthful. His forehead, broad and
high, out of all proportion to the lower part of his face, gave an
unmistakable character of intellect to the finely placed head. Indeed,
he liked to observe that the gods of the Greek sculptors owed much of
their elevation to being similarly out of drawing! The lower features
were terse, succinct, and powerful,--from the bold, decided jaw, to the
large, firm, ugly, good-humored mouth. His very spectacles aided the
general expression; they had a look of the man. But how shall I attempt
to tell you of his brilliant conversation, of his rapid, energetic
manner, of his quick turns of thought, as he flew on from topic to
topic, dashing his brush here and there upon the canvas? Slow and quiet
persons were a good deal startled by this suddenness and mobility. He
left such people far behind, mentally and bodily. But his talk was so
rich and varied, so earnest and glowing, his anecdotes so racy, his
perception of character so shrewd, and the whole tone so spontaneous and
natural, that the want of repose was rather recalled afterwards than
felt at the time. The alloy to this charm was a slight coarseness of
voice and accent, which contrasted somewhat strangely with his constant
courtesy and high breeding. Perhaps this was characteristic. A defect
of some sort pervades his pictures. Their great want is equality and
congruity,--that perfect union of qualities which we call _taste_. His
apartment, especially at that period when he lived in his painting-room,
was in itself a study of the most picturesque kind. Besides the great
picture itself, for which there seemed hardly space between the walls,
it was crowded with casts, lay figures, arms, tripods, vases, draperies,
and costumes of all ages, weapons of all nations, books in all tongues.
These cumbered the floor; whilst around hung smaller pictures, sketches,
and drawings, replete with originality and force. With chalk he could do
what he chose. I remember he once drew for me a head of hair with nine
of his sweeping, vigorous strokes! Among the studies I remarked that
day in his apartment was one of a mother who had just lost her only
child,--a most masterly rendering of an unspeakable grief. A sonnet,
which I could not help writing on this sketch, gave rise to our long
correspondence, and to a friendship which never flagged. Everybody feels
that his life, as told by Mr. Taylor, with its terrible catastrophe, is
a stern lesson to young artists, an awful warning that cannot be set
aside. Let us not forget that amongst his many faults are qualities
which hold out a bright example. His devotion to his noble art, his
conscientious pursuit of every study connected with it, his unwearied
industry, his love of beauty and of excellence, his warm family
affection, his patriotism, his courage, and his piety, will not easily
be surpassed. Thinking of them, let us speak tenderly of the ardent
spirit whose violence would have been softened by better fortune, and
who, if more successful, would have been more gentle and more humble."

And so with her vigilant and appreciative eye she saw, and thus in her
own charming way she talked of the man, whose name, says Taylor, as a
popularizer of art, stands without a rival among his brethren.

* * * * *

Her passion for the Drama continued through life, and to see a friend's
play would take her up to London when nothing else would tempt her to
leave her cottage. It was delightful to hear her talk of the old actors,
many of whom she had known. She loved to describe John Kemble, Mrs.
Siddons, Miss O'Neill, and Edmund Kean, as they were wont to electrify
the town. Elliston was a great favorite, and she had as many good things
to tell of him as Elia ever had. One autumn afternoon she related all
the circumstances attending the "first play" she ever saw,--which, by
the way, was a tragedy enacted in a barn somewhere in the little town of
Alresford, where she was born. The winking candles dividing the stage
from the audience, she used to say, were winking now in her memory,
although fifty years had elapsed since her father took her, a child of
four years, to see "Othello." Her talent at mimicry made her always most
interesting, when she spoke of Munden and his pleasant absurdities on
the stage. For Bannister, Johnstone, Fawcett, and Emery she had a most
exquisite relish, and she said they had made comedy to her a living art
full of laughter and tears. Her passion for the stage, and overclouded
prospects for the future, led her in early youth to write a play. She
had already written a considerable number of verses which had been
printed, and were honored by being severely castigated by Gifford in the

"I didn't mind the great reviewer's blows at all," she used to say. "My
poems had been republished in America; and Coleridge had prophesied that
I should one day write a tragedy."

Talfourd was then, though a young man, a most excellent critic, and lent
a helping hand to the young authoress. Her anxieties attending the first
representation of her play at Covent Garden she was always fond of
relating, and in such a manner that we who listened fell into such
boisterous merriment with her, that I have known carriages stop in front
of her window, and their inmates put out anxiously inquiring heads, to
learn, if possible, what it all meant inside the cottage.

She never forgot "the warm grasp of Mrs. Charles Kemble's hand, when she
saw her, all life and heartiness, at her house in Soho Square,--or the
excellent acting of Young and Kemble and Macready, who did everything
actors could do to secure success for her."

"These are the things," she once wrote, "one thinks of, when sitting
calm and old by the light of a country fire."

The comic and the grotesque that were mingled up with her first
experiences of the stage as a dramatic author were inimitably rendered
by herself, whenever she sat down to relate the story of that visit to
London for the purpose of bringing out her tragedy. The rehearsals,
where "the only grave person present was Mr. Liston!--the tragic
heroines sauntering languidly through their parts in bonnets and thick
shawls,--the untidy ballet-girls" (there was a dance in "Foscari")
"walking through their quadrille to the sound of a solitary
fiddle,"--she was never weary of calling up for the amusement of her

The old dramatists she had grown up to worship,--Shakspeare first, as in
all loyalty bound, and after him Fletcher. "Affluent, eloquent, royally
grand," she used to call both Beaumont and Fletcher; and whole scenes
from favorite plays she knew by heart. Dr. Valpy was her neighbor, he
being in the days of her youth headmaster of Reading School. A family
intimacy of long standing had existed between her father's household and
that of the learned and excellent scholar, so that his well-known taste
for the English dramatists had no small influence on Doctor Mitford's
studious daughter. "He helped me also," she said, "to enter into the
spirit of those mighty masters who dealt forth the stern Tragedies of

One of the dearest friends of her youth was Miss Porden, (afterwards
married, as his first wife, to Sir John Franklin,) and at her suggestion
Miss Mitford wrote "Rienzi." I have heard her say, that, going up
to London to bring out that play, she saw her old friend, then Mrs.
Franklin, working a flag for the captain's ship, then about to sail on
one of his early adventurous voyages. The agitation of parting with
her husband was too great for her delicate temperament, and before the
expedition was out of the Channel Mrs. Franklin was dead.

* * * * *

Often and often, when the English lanes were white with blossoms, I
have sat by her side while her faithful servant guided her low-wheeled
pony-chaise among the pleasant roads about Reading and Swallowfield.
Once we went to a cricket-ground together, and as we sat under the
trees, looking on as the game proceeded, she, who fell in love with
Nature when a child, and had studied the landscape till she knew
familiarly every flower and leaf that grows on English soil, assembled
all that was best in poesy from her memory to illustrate the beautiful
scene before us, and to prove how much better and more truly the great
end of existence is answered in a rural life than in the vexatious cares
of city occupation. As we sat looking at the vast lawn, magnificent in
its green apparel, she quoted Irving as one who had understood English
country-life perhaps more deeply and fully than any other foreign author
who had ever written.

Speaking, one day, of the slowness of poetical fame, she said,--

"It always takes ten years to make a poetical reputation in England; but
America is wiser and bolder, and dares say at once, '_This is fine!_'"

She rejoiced greatly in several of the American poets, and was never
weary of quoting certain ringing couplets which she has celebrated in
her "Notes of a Literary Life." "Is there anything under the sun," she
exclaims, "that Dr. Holmes cannot paint?"

During the last six years of her life she became a great invalid and
moved about only with severe pain. "It is not age," she said, "that has
thus prostrated me, but the hard work and increasing anxieties of thirty
years of authorship, during which my poor labors were all that my dear
father and mother had to look to; besides which, for the greater part of
that time I was constantly called upon to attend the sick bed, first of
one parent, and then of the other. I have only to be intensely thankful
that the power of exertion did not fail until the necessity for such
exertion was removed."

"I love poetry and people as well at sixty as I did at sixteen," she
said one day, when I gave her a new volume by an American friend, "and
can never be sufficiently grateful to God for having permitted me to
retain the two joy-giving faculties of admiration and sympathy." The
"Ballad of Cassandra Southwick" she esteemed as one of the finest things
of our time; and of "Astrea" she said,--"Nobody in England can write
the glorious resonant metre of Dryden like that strain, nowadays."

Pope was a great favorite with her, and she took me one morning to an
old house where he was a frequent guest, and where Arabella Fermor, the
heroine of the "Rape of the Lock," passed her married life. On the way
she often quoted the poet, whose works she seemed to know by heart.
Returning at sunset, she was very anxious that I should hear my first
nightingale among the woody lanes of her pretty country; but we were
both disappointed. We listened long, but, although the air was full of
birdsongs that evening, the sweet-voiced warbler was not of the choir.
She talked much, as we rode along, of Kingsley and Ruskin, both of whom
she loved as friends as well as authors. "John Ruskin," she said, "is
good and kind, and charming beyond the common lot of mortals, and there
are pages of his prose, to my thinking, more eloquent than any thing out
of Jeremy Taylor."

Speaking of Humor, she said,--"Between ourselves, I always have a little
doubt of genius, when there is none of that quality: certainly, in the
very highest poetry, the two go together."

She greatly admired Beranger, and often spoke of him as the beautiful
old man, the truest and best type of perfect independence. Hazlitt she
ranked highly as an essayist, and she mentioned that she had heard both
Charles Lamb and Talfourd praise him as not only the most brilliant, but
the soundest of critics.

Among modern romances, those by the author of "The Scarlet Letter"
seemed to impress her almost more than any others; and when "The House
of the Seven Gables" was translated into Russian, she was filled with
delight. Indeed, she was always among the first to cry, "Bravo!" over
any good words for American literature.

"Do coax Mr. Hawthorne and Dr. Holmes," she said one day, "into visiting
England. I want them to be welcomed as they deserve, and as they are
sure to be."

Her interest in the French Emperor's career amounted to enthusiasm, and
one day she told us a very pretty story about him which she knew to
be true. She said, when he was in England after Strasbourg and before
Boulogne, he spent a twelvemonth at Leamington, living in the quietest
manner. One of the principal persons in that town, Mr. H., a very
liberal and accomplished man, made a point of showing every attention in
his power to the Prince; and they very soon became intimate. There
was in the town an old officer of the Emperor's Polish Legion, who,
compelled to leave France after Waterloo, had taken refuge in England,
and, having a natural talent for languages, maintained himself by
teaching French, Italian, and German in different families. The old
exile and the young one found each other out, and the language-master
was soon an habitual guest at the Prince's table, where he was treated
with the most affectionate attention. At last Louis Napoleon was obliged
to repair to London, but before he went he called on his friend Mr. H.
to take leave. After warm thanks to him for all the pleasure he had
experienced in his society, the Prince said,--

"I am about to prove to you my entire reliance upon your unfailing
kindness by leaving you a legacy. I wish to ask that you would transfer
to my poor old friend the goodness you have lavished on me. His health
is failing,--his means are small; pray, call upon him sometimes, and see
that the lodging-house people do not neglect him. Draw upon me for what
may be wanting for his needs or for his comforts."

Mr. H. promised, and faithfully replaced the Prince in his kind
attentions to his old friend. The poor old man grew ill at last, and
died, Mr. H. defraying all the charges of his illness and of his
funeral. "I would willingly have paid them myself," said he, "but I knew
that would have offended and grieved the Prince. I found that provision
had been made at his banker's to answer my drafts to a much larger
amount than the actual debt."

Miss Mitford used to say that she kept this anecdote for non-admirers of
the Emperor.

One day she came limping into the room, with her dog Fanchon following
in the same lame plight,--she laughing heartily at their similarity of
gait, and holding up a letter just in from the post.

"Here," said she, "is an epistle from my dear old friend, Lady M.,"
(Gibbon's correspondent,) "who at the age of eighty-three is caught
by new books, and is as enthusiastic as a girl. She commissions me to
inquire of you all about your new authoress, the writer of 'Uncle Tom's
Cabin,' who she is, and all you know of her. So let me hear what you
have to say about the lady."

During a brief visit to her cottage not long before she died, the chase
was started one evening to find, if possible, the origin of the line
quoted by Byron,--

"A fellow-feeling makes one wondrous kind."

In vain we searched among the poets, and at last all the party gave up
in despair. I went up to London soon after, thinking no more of the lost
line. In a few days, however, came a brief note, as follows:--

"Hurrah, dear friend! I have found the line without any other person's
aid or suggestion! Last night it occurred to me that it was in some
prologue or epilogue; and my little book-room being very rich in the
drama, I have looked through many hundreds of those bits of rhyme, and
at last made a discovery, which, if it have no other good effect, will
at least have 'emptied my head of Corsica,' as Johnson said to Boswell;
for never was the great biographer more haunted by the thought of Paoli
than I by that line. It occurs in an epilogue by Garrick, on quitting
the stage, June, 1776, when the performance was for the benefit of sick
and aged actors.

"Not finding it quoted in Johnson convinced me that it would probably
have been written after the publication of the Dictionary, and
ultimately guided me to the right place. It is singular that epilogues
were just dismissed at the first representation of one of my plays,
'Foscari,' and prologues at another, 'Rienzi.'

"Ever most affectionately yours,


"P.S. I am still a close prisoner in my room. But when fine weather
comes, I will get down in some way or other, and trust myself to that
which never hurts anybody, the honest open air. Spring, and even the
approach of spring, sets me dreaming. I see leafy hedges in my sleep,
and flowery banks, and then I long to make the vision a reality.
I remember that my dog Flush, Fanchon's father, who was a famous
sporting-dog, used, at the approach of the covering season, to hunt in
his sleep, doubtless by the same instinct that works in me. So, as soon
as the sun tells the same story with the primroses, I shall make a
descent after some fashion, and, no doubt, aided by Sam's stalwart arm,

* * * * *

After leaving Three-Mile Cross for Swallowfield, her health, never of
late years robust, seemed failing. In one of her letters to me she gives
this pleasant picture of her home:--

"Ill as I am, my spirits are as good as ever; and just at this moment I
am most comfortably seated under the acacia-tree at the corner of the
house,--the beautiful acacia literally loaded with its snowy chains. The
flowering-trees this summer, the lilacs, laburnums, and rhododendrons,
have been one mass of blossoms, but none are so graceful as this
waving acacia. On one side is a syringa, smelling and looking like an
orange-tree,--a jar of roses on the table before me,--fresh gathered
roses,--the pride of my gardener's heart. Little Fanchon is at my
feet, too idle to eat the biscuits with which I am trying to tempt
her,--biscuits from Boston, sent to me by kind Mrs. S., and which
Fanchon ought to like; but you know her laziness of old, and she
improves in it every day."

It was about this period that Walter Savage Landor sent to her these
exquisite lines:--

"The hay is carried; and the Hours
Snatch, as they pass, the linden-flowers;
And children leap to pluck a spray
Bent earthward, and then run away.
Park-keeper! catch me those grave thieves,
About whose frocks the fragrant leaves,
Sticking and fluttering here and there,
No false nor faltering witness bear.

"I never view such scenes as these
In grassy meadow girt with trees,
But comes a thought of her who now
Sits with serenely patient brow
Amid deep sufferings: none hath told
More pleasant tales to young and old.
Fondest was she of Father Thames,
But rambled to Hellenic streams;
Nor even there could any tell
The country's purer charms so well
As Mary Mitford.

"Verse! go forth
And breathe o'er gentle hearts her worth.
Needless the task: but should she see
One hearty wish from you and me,
A moment's pain it may assuage,--
A rose-leaf on the couch of Age."

In the early days of the year 1855 she sent, in her own handwriting,
kind greetings to her old friends only a few hours before she died.
Sweetness of temper and brightness of mind, her never-failing
characteristics, accompanied her to the last; and she passed on in her
usual cheerful and affectionate mood, her sympathies uncontracted by
age, narrow fortune, and pain.




The two meeting-houses which faced each other like a pair of
fighting-cocks had not flapped their wings or crowed at each other for a
considerable time. The Reverend Mr. Fairweather had been dyspeptic and
low-spirited of late, and was too languid for controversy. The Reverend
Doctor Honeywood had been very busy with his benevolent associations,
and had discoursed chiefly on practical matters, to the neglect of
special doctrinal subjects. His senior deacon ventured to say to him
that some of his people required to be reminded of the great fundamental
doctrine of the worthlessness of all human efforts and motives. Some of
them were altogether too much pleased with the success of the Temperance
Society and the Association for the Relief of the Poor. There was a
pestilent heresy about, concerning the satisfaction to be derived from
a good conscience,--as if anybody ever did anything which was not to be
hated, loathed, despised, and condemned.

The old minister listened gravely, with an inward smile, and told his
deacon that he would attend to his suggestion. After the deacon had
gone, he tumbled over his manuscripts, until at length he came upon his
first-rate old sermon on "Human Nature." He had read a great deal of
hard theology, and had at last reached that curious state which is so
common in good ministers,--that, namely, in which they contrive to
switch off their logical faculties on the narrow side-track of their
technical dogmas, while the great freight-train of their substantial
human qualities keeps in the main highway of common-sense, in which
kindly souls are always found by all who approach them by their human

The Doctor read his sermon with a pleasant, paternal interest: it was
well argued from his premises. Here and there he dashed his pen through
a harsh expression. Now and then he added an explanation or qualified
a broad statement. But his mind was on the logical side-track, and he
followed the chain of reasoning without fairly perceiving where it would
lead him, if he carried it into real life.

He was just touching up the final proposition, when his granddaughter,
Letty, once before referred to, came into the room with her smiling face
and lively movement. Miss Letty or Letitia Forrester was a city-bred
girl of some fifteen or sixteen years old, who was passing the summer
with her grandfather for the sake of country air and quiet. It was a
sensible arrangement; for, having the promise of figuring as a belle
by-and-by, and being a little given to dancing, and having a voice which
drew a pretty dense circle around the piano when she sat down to play
and sing, it was hard to keep her from being carried into society before
her time, by the mere force of mutual attraction. Fortunately, she had
some quiet as well as some social tastes, and was willing enough to pass
two or three of the summer months in the country, where she was much
better bestowed than she would have been at one of those watering-places
where so many half-formed girls get prematurely hardened in the vice of

Miss Letty was altogether too wholesome, hearty, and high-strung a young
girl to be a model, according to the flat-chested and cachectic pattern
which is the classical type of certain excellent young females, often
the subjects of biographical memoirs. But the old minister was proud of
his granddaughter for all that. She was so full of life, so graceful, so
generous, so vivacious, so ready always to do all she could for him and
for everybody, so perfectly frank in her avowed delight in the pleasures
which this miserable world offered her in the shape of natural beauty,
of poetry, of music, of companionship, of books, of cheerful cooperation
in the tasks of those about her, that the Reverend Doctor could not
find it in his heart to condemn her because she was deficient in those
particular graces and that signal other-worldliness he had sometimes
noticed in feeble young persons suffering from various chronic diseases
which impaired their vivacity and removed them from the range of

When Letty, therefore, came bounding into the old minister's study,
he glanced up from his manuscript, and, as his eye fell upon her,
it flashed across him that there was nothing so very monstrous and
unnatural about the specimen of congenital perversion he was looking at,
with his features opening into their pleasantest sunshine. Technically,
according to the fifth proposition of the sermon on Human Nature, very
bad, no doubt. Practically, according to the fact before him, a very
pretty piece of the Creator's handiwork, body and soul. Was it not a
conceivable thing that the divine grace might show itself in different
forms in a fresh young girl like Letitia, and in that poor thing he had
visited yesterday, half-grown, half-colored, in bed for the last year
with hip-disease? Was it to be supposed that this healthy young girl,
with life throbbing all over her, _could_, without a miracle, be good
according to the invalid pattern and formula?

And yet there were mysteries in human nature which pointed to some
tremendous perversion of its tendencies,--to some profound, radical vice
of moral constitution, native or transmitted, as you will have it, but
positive, at any rate, as the leprosy, breaking out in the blood of
races, guard them ever so carefully. Did he not know the case of a young
lady in Rockland, daughter of one of the first families in the place,
a very beautiful and noble creature to look at, for whose bringing-up
nothing had been spared,--a girl who had had governesses to teach her at
the house, who had been indulged almost too kindly,--a girl whose father
had given himself up to her, he being himself a pure and high-souled
man?--and yet this girl was accused in whispers of having been on the
very verge of committing a fatal crime; she was an object of fear to all
who knew the dark hints which had been let fall about her, and there
were some that believed--Why, what was this but an instance of the total
obliquity and degeneration of the moral principle? and to what could it
be owing, but to an innate organic tendency?

"Busy, grandpapa?" said Letty, and without waiting for an answer
kissed his cheek with a pair of lips made on purpose for that little
function,--fine, but richly turned out, the corners tucked in with a
finish of pretty dimples, the rosebud lips of girlhood's June.

The old gentleman looked at his granddaughter. Nature swelled up from
his heart in a wave that sent a glow to his cheek and a sparkle to his
eye. But it is very hard to be interrupted just as we are winding up a
string of propositions with the grand conclusion which is the statement
in brief of all that has gone before: our own starting-point, into which
we have been trying to back our reader or listener as one backs a horse
into the shafts.

"_Video meliora, proboque_,--I see the better, and approve it;
_deteriora sequor_,--I follow after the worse: 'tis that natural
dislike to what is good, pure, holy, and true, that inrooted
selfishness, totally insensible to the claims of"--

Here the worthy man was interrupted by Miss Letty.

"Do come, if you can, grandpapa," said the young girl; "here is a poor
old black woman wants to see you so much!"

The good minister was as kind-hearted as if he had never groped in the
dust and ashes of those cruel old abstractions which have killed out so
much of the world's life and happiness, "With the heart man believeth
unto righteousness"; a man's love is the measure of his fitness for good
or bad company here or elsewhere. Men are tattooed with their special
beliefs like so many South-Sea Islanders; but a real human heart, with
Divine love in it, beats with the same glow under all the patterns of
all earth's thousand tribes!

The Doctor sighed, and folded the sermon, and laid the Quarto Cruden on
it. He rose from his desk, and, looking once more at the young girl's
face, forgot his logical conclusions, and said to himself that she was
a little angel,--which was in violent contradiction to the leading
doctrine of his sermon on Human Nature. And so he followed her out of
the study into the wide entry of the old-fashioned country-house.

An old black woman sat on the plain oaken settle which humble visitors
waiting to see the minister were wont to occupy. She was old, but how
old it would be very hard to guess. She might be seventy. She might be
ninety. One could not swear she was not a hundred. Black women remain at
a stationary age (to the eyes of _white_ people, at least) for thirty
years. They do not appear to change during this period any more than
so many Trenton trilobites. Bent up, wrinkled, yellow-eyed, with long
upper-lip, projecting jaws, retreating chin, still meek features, long
arms, large flat hands with uncolored palms and slightly webbed fingers,
it was impossible not to see in this old creature a hint of the
gradations by which life climbs up through the lower natures to the
highest human developments. We cannot tell such old women's ages because
we do not understand the physiognomy of a race so unlike our own.
No doubt they see a great deal in each other's faces that we
cannot,--changes of color and expression as real as our own, blushes and
sudden betrayals of feeling,--just as these two canaries know what
their single notes and short sentences and full song with this or that
variation mean, though it is a mystery to us unplumed mortals.

This particular old black woman was a striking specimen of her
class. Old as she looked, her eye was bright and knowing. She wore a
red-and-yellow turban, which set off her complexion well, and hoops of
gold in her ears, and beads of gold about her neck, and an old funeral
ring upon her finger. She had that touching stillness about her which
belongs to animals that wait to be spoken to and then look up with a
kind of sad humility.

"Why, Sophy!" said the good minister, "is this you?"

She looked up with the still expression on her face. "It's old Sophy,"
she said.

"Why," said the Doctor, "I did not believe you could walk so far as this
to save the Union. Bring Sophy a glass of wine, Letty. Wine's good for
old folks like Sophy and me, after walking a good way, or preaching a
good while."

The young girl stepped into the back-parlor, where she found the
great pewter flagon in which the wine that was left after each
communion-service was brought to the minister's house. With much toil
she managed to tip it so as to get a couple of glasses filled. The
minister tasted his, and made old Sophy finish hers.

"I wan' to see you 'n' talk wi' you all alone," she said presently.

The minister got up and led the way towards his study. "To be sure," he
said; he had only waited for her to rest a moment before he asked her
into the library. The young girl took her gently by the arm, and helped
her feeble steps along the passage. When they reached the study, she
smoothed the cushion of a rocking-chair, and made the old woman sit
down in it. Then she tripped lightly away, and left her alone with the

Old Sophy was a member of the Reverend Doctor Honeywood's church.
She had been put through the necessary confessions in a tolerably
satisfactory manner. To be sure, as her grandfather had been a cannibal
chief, according to the common story, and, at any rate, a terrible wild
savage, and as her mother retained to the last some of the prejudices
of her early education, there was a heathen flavor in her Christianity,
which had often scandalized the elder of the minister's two deacons.
But the good minister had smoothed matters over: had explained that
allowances were to be made for those who had been long sitting without
the gate of Zion,--that, no doubt, a part of the curse which descended
to the children of Ham consisted in "having the understanding darkened,"
as well as the skin,--and so had brought his suspicious senior deacon to
tolerate old Sophy as one of the communion of fellow-sinners.

* * * * *

----Poor things! How little we know the simple notions with which these
rudiments of souls are nourished by the Divine Goodness! Did not Mrs.
Professor come home this very blessed morning with a story of one of her
old black women?

"And how do you feel to-day, Mrs. Robinson?"

"Oh, my dear, I have this singing in my head all the time." (What
doctors call _tinnitus aurium_.)

"She's got a cold in the head," said old Mrs. Rider.

"Oh, no, my dear! Whatever I'm thinking about, it's all this singing,
this music. When I'm thinking of the dear Redeemer, it all turns into
this singing and music. When the clark came to see me, I asked him if
he couldn't cure me, and he said, No,--it was the Holy Spirit in me,
singing to me; and all the time I hear this beautiful music, and it's
the Holy Spirit a-singing to me."----

* * * * *

The good man waited for Sophy to speak; but she did not open her lips as

"I hope you are not troubled in mind or body," he said to her at length,
finding she did not speak.

The poor old woman took out a white handkerchief, and lifted it to her
black face. She could not say a word for her tears and sobs.

The minister would have consoled her; he was used to tears, and could in
most cases withstand their contagion manfully; but something choked his
voice suddenly, and when he called upon it, he got no answer, but a
tremulous movement of the muscles, which was worse than silence.

At last she spoke.

"Oh, no, no, no! It's my poor girl, my darling, my beauty, my baby,
that's grown up to be a woman; she will come to a bad end; she will do
something that will make them kill her or shut her up all her life. Oh,
Doctor, Doctor, save her, pray for her! It a'n't her fault. It a'n't
her fault. If they knew all that I know, they wouldn't blame that poor
child. I must tell you, Doctor: if I should die, perhaps nobody else
would tell you. Massa Venner can't talk about it. Doctor Kittredge won't
talk about it. Nobody but old Sophy to tell you, Doctor; and old Sophy
can't die without telling you."

The kind minister soothed the poor old soul with those gentle, quieting
tones which had carried peace and comfort to so many chambers of
sickness and sorrow, to so many hearts overburdened by the trials laid
upon them.

Old Sophy became quiet in a few minutes, and proceeded to tell her
story. She told it in the low half-whisper which is the natural voice
of lips oppressed with grief and fears; with quick glances around the
apartment from time to time, as if she dreaded lest the dim portraits on
the walls and the dark folios on the shelves might overhear her words.

It was not one of those conversations which a third person can report
minutely, unless by that miracle of clairvoyance known to the readers
of stories made out of authors' brains. Yet its main character can be
imparted in a much briefer space than the old black woman took to give
all its details.

She went far back to the time when Dudley Venner was born,--she being
then a middle-aged woman. The heir and hope of a family which had been
narrowing down as if doomed to extinction, he had been surrounded with
every care and trained by the best education he could have in New
England. He had left college, and was studying the profession which
gentlemen of leisure most affect, when he fell in love with a young girl
left in the world almost alone, as he was. The old woman told the story
of his young love and his joyous bridal with a tenderness which had
something more, even, than her family sympathies to account for it. Had
she not hanging over her bed a small paper-cutting of a profile--jet
black, but not blacker than the face it represented--of one who would
have been her own husband in the small years of this century, if the
vessel in which he went to sea, like Jamie in the ballad, had not sailed
away and never come back to land? Had she not her bits of furniture
stowed away which had been got ready for her own wedding,--_two_
rocking-chairs, one worn with long use, one kept for him so long that it
had grown a superstition with her never to sit in it,--and might he not
come back yet, after all? Had she not her chest of linen ready for her
humble house-keeping, with store of serviceable huckaback and piles of
neatly folded kerchiefs, wherefrom this one that showed so white against
her black face was taken, for that she knew her eyes would betray her in
"the presence"?

All the first part of the story the old woman told tenderly, and yet
dwelling upon every incident with a loving pleasure. How happy this
young couple had been, what plans and projects of improvement they had
formed, how they lived in each other, always together, so young and
fresh and beautiful as she remembered them in that one early summer when
they walked arm in arm through the wilderness of roses that ran riot in
the garden,--she told of this as loath to leave it and come to the woe
that lay beneath.

She told the whole story;--shall I repeat it? Not now. If, in the
course of relating the incidents I have undertaken to report, _it tells
itself_, perhaps this will be better than to run the risk of producing a
painful impression on some of those susceptible readers whom it would be
ill-advised to disturb or excite, when they rather require to be amused
and soothed. In our pictures of life, we must show the flowering-out of
terrible growths which have their roots deep, deep underground. Just
how far we shall lay bare the unseemly roots themselves is a matter of
discretion and taste, in which none of us are infallible.

The old woman told the whole story of Elsie, of her birth, of her
peculiarities of person and disposition, of the passionate fears and
hopes with which her father had watched the course of her development.
She recounted all her strange ways, from the hour when she first tried
to crawl across the carpet, and her father shrank from her with an
involuntary shudder as she worked her way towards him. With the memory
of Juliet's nurse she told the story of her teething, and how, the woman
to whose breast she had clung dying suddenly about that time, they
had to struggle hard with the child before she would learn the
accomplishment of feeding with a spoon. And so of her fierce plays and
fiercer disputes with that boy who had been her companion, and the whole
scene of the quarrel when she struck him with those sharp white teeth,
frightening her, old Sophy, almost to death; for, as she said, the boy
would have died, if it hadn't been for the old Doctor's galloping over
as fast as he could gallop and burning the places right out of his arm.
Then came the story of that other incident, sufficiently alluded to
already, which had produced such an ecstasy of fright and left such a
nightmare of apprehension in the household. And so the old woman came
down to this present time. That boy she never loved nor trusted was
grown to a dark, dangerous-looking man, and he was under their roof. He
wanted to marry our poor Elsie, and Elsie hated him, and sometimes she
would look at him over her shoulder just as she used to look at that
woman she hated; and she, old Sophy, couldn't sleep for thinking she
should hear a scream from the white chamber some night and find him in
spasms such as that woman came so near dying with. And then there was
something about Elsie she did not know what to make of: she would sit
and hang her head sometimes, and look as if she were dreaming; and she
brought home books they said a young gentleman up at the great school
lent her; and once she heard her whisper in her sleep, and she talked as
young girls do to themselves when they're thinking about somebody they
have a liking for and think nobody knows it.

She finished her long story at last. The minister had listened to it in
perfect silence. He sat still even when she had done speaking,--still,
and lost in thought. It was a very awkward matter for him to have a hand
in. Old Sophy was his parishioner, but the Venners had a pew in the
Reverend Mr. Fairweather's meeting-house. It would seem that he, Mr.
Fairweather, was the natural adviser of the parties most interested. Had
he sense and spirit enough to deal with such people? Was there enough
capital of humanity in his somewhat limited nature to furnish sympathy
and unshrinking service for his friends in an emergency? or was he too
busy with his own attacks of spiritual neuralgia, and too much occupied
with taking account of stock of his own thin-blooded offences, to forget
himself and his personal interests on the small scale and the large,
and run a risk of his life, if need were, at any rate give himself up
without reserve to the dangerous task of guiding and counselling these
distressed and imperilled fellow-creatures?

The good minister thought the best thing to do would be to call and talk
over some of these matters with Brother Fairweather,--for so he would
call him at times, especially if his senior deacon were not within
earshot. Having settled this point, he comforted Sophy with a few words
of counsel and a promise of coming to see her very soon. He then called
his man to put the old white horse into the chaise and drive Sophy back
to the mansion-house.

When the Doctor sat down to his sermon again, it looked very differently
from the way it had looked at the moment he left it. When he came to
think of it, he did not feel quite so sure _practically_ about that
matter of the utter natural selfishness of everybody. There was Letty,
now, seemed to take a very unselfish interest in that old black woman,
and indeed in poor people generally; perhaps it would not be too much to
say that she was always thinking of other people. He thought he had
seen other young persons naturally unselfish, thoughtful for others; it
seemed to be a family trait in some he had known.

But most of all he was exercised about this poor girl whose story Sophy
had been telling. If what the old woman believed was true,--and it
had too much semblance of probability,--what became of his theory of
ingrained moral obliquity applied to such a case? If by the visitation
of God a person receives any injury which impairs the intellect or the
moral perceptions, is it not monstrous to judge such a person by our
common working standards of right and wrong? Certainly, everybody will
answer, in cases where there is a palpable organic change brought about,
as when a blow on the head produces insanity. Fools! How long will it be
before we shall learn that for every wound which betrays itself to the
sight by a scar, there are a thousand unseen mutilations that cripple,
each of them, some one or more of our highest faculties? If what Sophy
told and believed was the real truth, what prayers could be agonizing
enough, what tenderness could be deep enough, for this poor, lost,
blighted, hapless, blameless child of misfortune, struck by such a doom
as perhaps no living creature in all the sisterhood of humanity shared
with her?

The minister thought these matters over until his mind was bewildered
with doubts and tossed to and fro on that stormy deep of thought heaving
forever beneath the conflict of windy dogmas. He laid by his old sermon.
He put back a pile of old commentators with their eyes and mouths and
hearts full of the dust of the schools. Then he opened the book of
Genesis at the eighteenth chapter and read that remarkable argument
of Abraham's with his Maker, in which he boldly appeals to first
principles. He took as his text, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth
do right?" and began to write his sermon, afterwards so famous,--"On the
Obligations of an Infinite Creator to a Finite Creature."

It astonished the good people, who had been accustomed so long to repeat
mechanically their Oriental hyperboles of self-abasement, to hear their
worthy minister maintaining that the dignified attitude of the old
Patriarch, insisting on what was reasonable and fair with reference to
his fellow-creatures, was really much more respectful to his Maker, and
a great deal manlier and more to his credit, than if he had yielded the
whole matter, and pretended that men had not rights as well as duties.
The same logic which had carried him to certain conclusions with
reference to human nature, this same irresistible logic carried him
straight on from his text until he arrived at those other results, which
not only astonished his people, as was said, but surprised himself. He
went so far in defence of the rights of man, that he put his foot into
several heresies, for which men had been burned so often, it was time,
if ever it could be, to acknowledge the demonstration of the _argumentum
ad ignem_. He did not believe in the responsibility of idiots. He did
not believe a new-born infant was morally answerable for other people's
acts. He thought a man with a crooked spine would never be called to
account for not walking erect. He thought, if the crook was in his
brain, instead of his back, he could not fairly be blamed for any
consequence of this natural defect, whatever lawyers or divines might
call it. He argued, that, if a person inherited a perfect mind, body,
and disposition, and had perfect teaching from infancy, that person
could do nothing more than keep the moral law perfectly. But supposing
that the Creator allows a person to be born with an hereditary or
ingrafted organic tendency, and then puts this person into the hands of
teachers incompetent or positively bad, is not what is called _sin_ or
transgression of the law necessarily involved in the premises? Is not
a Creator bound to guard his children against the ruin which inherited
ignorance might entail on them? Would it be fair for a parent to put
into a child's hands the title-deeds to all its future possessions, and
a bunch of matches? And are not men children, nay, babes, in the eye of
Omniscience?--The minister grew bold in his questions. Had not he as
good right to ask questions as Abraham?

This was the dangerous vein of speculation in which the Reverend Doctor
Honeywood found himself involved, as a consequence of the suggestions
forced upon him by old Sophy's communication. The truth was, the good
man had got so humanized by mixing up with other people in various
benevolent schemes, that, the very moment he could escape from his old
scholastic abstractions, he took the side of humanity instinctively,
just as the Father of the Faithful did,--all honor be to the noble old
Patriarch for insisting on the worth of an honest man, and making the
best terms he could for a very ill-conditioned metropolis, which might
possibly, however, have contained ten righteous people, for whose sake
it should be spared!

The consequence of all this was, that he was in a singular and seemingly
self-contradictory state of mind when he took his hat and cane and went
forth to call on his heretical brother. The old minister took it for
granted that the Reverend Mr. Fairweather knew the private history of
his parishioner's family. He did not reflect that there are griefs
men _never_ put into words,--that there are fears which must not be
spoken,--intimate matters of consciousness which must be carried, as
bullets that have been driven deep into the living tissues are sometimes
carried, for a whole life-time,--_encysted_ griefs, if we may borrow the
chirurgeon's term, never to be reached, never to be seen, never to be
thrown out, but to go into the dust with the frame that bore them about
with it, during long years of anguish, known only to the sufferer and
his Maker. Dudley Venner had talked with his minister about this child
of his. But he had talked cautiously, feeling his way for sympathy,
looking out for those indications of tact and judgment which would
warrant him in some partial communication, at least, of the origin of
his doubts and fears, and never finding them.

There was something about the Reverend Mr. Fairweather which repressed
all attempts at confidential intercourse. What this something was,
Dudley Venner could hardly say; but he felt it distinctly, and it sealed
his lips. He never got beyond certain generalities connected with
education and religious instruction. The minister could not help
discovering, however, that there were difficulties connected with this
girl's management, and he heard enough outside of the family to convince
him that she had manifested tendencies, from an early age, at variance
with the theoretical opinions he was in the habit of preaching, and in
a dim way of holding for truth, as to the natural dispositions of the
human being.

About this terrible fact of congenital obliquity his new beliefs began
to cluster as a centre, and to take form as a crystal around its
nucleus. Still, he might perhaps have struggled against them, had it not
been for the little Roman Catholic chapel he passed every Sunday, on his
way to the meeting-house. Such a crowd of worshippers, swarming into the
pews like bees, filling all the aisles, running over at the door like
berries heaped too full in the measure,--some kneeling on the steps,
some standing on the side-walk, hats off, heads down, lips moving, some
looking on devoutly from the other side of the street! Oh, could he
have followed his own Bridget, maid of all work, into the heart of that
steaming throng, and bowed his head while the priests intoned their
Latin prayers! could he have snuffed up the cloud of frankincense, and
felt that he was in the great ark which holds the better half of the
Christian world, while all around it are wretched creatures, some
struggling against the waves in leaky boats, and some on ill-connected
rafts, and some with their heads just above water, thinking to ride out
the flood which is to sweep the earth clean of sinners, upon their own
private, individual life-preservers!

Such was the present state of mind of the Reverend Chauncy Fairweather,
when his clerical brother called upon him to talk over the questions to
which old Sophy had called his attention.



For the last few months, while all these various matters were going on
in Rockland, the Reverend Chauncy Fairweather had been busy with the
records of ancient councils and the writings of the early fathers. The
more he read, the more discontented he became with the platform upon
which he and his people were standing. They and he were clearly in
a minority, and his deep inward longing to be with the majority was
growing into an engrossing passion. He yearned especially towards the
good old unquestioning, authoritative Mother Church, with her articles
of faith which took away the necessity for private judgment, with her
traditional forms and ceremonies, and her whole apparatus of stimulants
and anodynes.

About this time he procured a breviary and kept it in his desk under
the loose papers. He sent to a Catholic bookstore and obtained a small
crucifix suspended from a string of beads. He ordered his new coat to be
cut very narrow in the collar and to be made single-breasted. He began
an informal series of religious conversations with Miss O'Brien, the
young person of Irish extraction already referred to as Bridget, maid
of all work. These not proving very satisfactory, he managed to fall in
with Father McShane, the Catholic priest of the Rockland church. Father
McShane encouraged his nibble very scientifically. It would be such
a fine thing to bring over one of those Protestant heretics, and a
"liberal" one too!--not that there was any real difference between
them, but it sounded better to say that one of these rationalizing
free-and-equal religionists had been made a convert than any of those
half-way Protestants who were the slaves of catechisms instead of
councils and of commentators instead of popes. The subtle priest played
his disciple with his finest tackle. It was hardly necessary: when
anything or anybody wishes to be caught, a bare hook and a coarse line
are all that is needed.

If a man has a genuine, sincere, hearty wish to get rid of his liberty,
if he is really bent upon becoming a slave, nothing can stop him. And
the temptation is to some natures a very great one. Liberty is often a
heavy burden on a man. It involves that necessity for perpetual choice
which is the kind of labor men have always dreaded. In common life
we shirk it by forming _habits_, which take the place of
self-determination. In politics party-organization saves us the pains of
much thinking before deciding how to cast our vote. In religious matters
there are great multitudes watching us perpetually, each propagandist
ready with his bundle of finalities, which having accepted we may be
at peace. The more absolute the submission demanded, the stronger the
temptation becomes to those who have been long tossed among doubts and

So it is that in all the quiet bays which indent the shores of the great
ocean of thought, at every sinking wharf, we see moored the hulks
and the razees of enslaved or half-enslaved intelligences. They rock
peacefully as children in their cradles on the subdued swell that comes
feebly in over the bar at the harbor's mouth, slowly crusting with
barnacles, pulling at their iron cables as if they really wanted to be
free, but better contented to remain bound as they are. For these no
more the round unwalled horizon of the open sea, the joyous breeze
aloft, the furrow, the foam, the sparkle that track the rushing keel!
They have escaped the dangers of the wave, and lie still henceforth,
evermore. Happiest of souls, if lethargy is bliss, and palsy the chief

America owes its political freedom to religious Protestantism. But
political freedom is reacting on religious prescription with still
mightier force. We wonder, therefore, when we find a soul which was
born to a full sense of individual liberty, an unchallenged right
of self-determination on every new alleged truth offered to its
intelligence, voluntarily surrendering any portion of its liberty to
a spiritual dictatorship which always proves to rest, in the last
analysis, on _a majority vote_, nothing more nor less, commonly an old
one, passed in those barbarous times when men cursed and murdered each
other for differences of opinion, and of course were not in a condition
to settle the beliefs of a comparatively civilized community.

In our disgust, we are liable to be intolerant. We forget that weakness
is not in itself a sin. We forget that even cowardice may call for our
most lenient judgment, if it spring from innate infirmity. Who of us
does not look with great tenderness on the young chieftain in the "Fair
Maid of Perth," when he confesses his want of courage? All of us love
companionship and sympathy; some of us may love them too much. All of us
are more or less imaginative in our theology. Some of us may find the
aid of material symbols a comfort, if not a necessity. The boldest
thinker may have his moments of languor and discouragement, when he
feels as if he could willingly exchange faiths with the old beldame
crossing herself at the cathedral-door,--nay, that, if he could drop
all coherent thought, and lie in the flowery meadow with the brown-eyed
solemnly unthinking cattle, looking up to the sky, and all their simple
consciousness staining itself blue, then down to the grass, and life
turning to a mere greenness, blended with confused scents of herbs,--no
individual mind-movement such as men are teased with, but the great
calm cattle-sense of all time and all places that know the milky smell
of herds,--if he could be like these, he would be content to be driven
home by the cow-boy, and share the grassy banquet of the king of ancient
Babylon. Let us be very generous, then, in our judgment of those
who leave the front ranks of thought for the company of the meek
non-combatants who follow with the baggage and provisions. Age, illness,
too much wear and tear, a half-formed paralysis, may bring any of us to
this pass. But while we can think and maintain the rights of our own
individuality against every human combination, let as not forget to
caution all who are disposed to waver that there is a cowardice which is
criminal, and a longing for rest which it is baseness to indulge. God
help him over whose dead soul in his living body must be uttered the sad
supplication, _Requiescat in pace_!

* * * * *

A knock at the Reverend Mr. Fairweather's study-door called his eyes
from the book on which they were intent. He looked up, as if expecting a
welcome guest.

The Reverend Pierrepont Honeywood, D.D., entered the study of the
Reverend Chauncy Fairweather. He was not the expected guest. Mr.
Fairweather slipped the book he was reading into a half-open drawer,
and pushed in the drawer. He slid something which rattled under a paper
lying on the table. He rose with a slight change of color, and welcomed,
a little awkwardly, his unusual visitor.

"Good evening, Brother Fairweather!" said the Reverend Doctor, in a
very cordial, good-humored way. "I hope I am not spoiling one of those
eloquent sermons I never have a chance to hear."

"Not at all, not at all," the younger clergyman answered, in a languid
tone, with a kind of habitual half-querulousness which belonged to
it,--the vocal expression which we meet with now and then, and which
says as plainly as so many words could say it, "I am a suffering
individual. I am persistently undervalued, wronged, and imposed upon by
mankind and the powers of the universe generally. But I endure all. I
endure _you_. Speak. I listen. It is a burden to me, but I even approve.
I sacrifice myself. Behold this movement of my lips! It is a smile."

The Reverend Doctor knew this forlorn way of Mr. Fairweather's, and was
not troubled by it. He proceeded to relate the circumstances of his
visit from the old black woman, and the fear she was in about the young
girl, who being a parishioner of Mr. Fairweather's, he had thought it
best to come over and speak to him about old Sophy's fears and fancies.

In telling the old woman's story, he alluded only vaguely to those
peculiar circumstances to which she had attributed so much importance,
taking it for granted that the other minister must be familiar with
the whole series of incidents she had related. The old minister was
mistaken, as we have before seen. Mr. Fairweather had been settled in
the place only about ten years, and, if he had heard a strange hint now
and then about Elsie, had never considered it as anything more than
idle and ignorant, if not malicious, village-gossip. All that he fully
understood was that this had been a perverse and unmanageable child, and
that the extraordinary care which had been bestowed on her had been so
far thrown away that she was a dangerous, self-willed girl, whom all
feared and almost all shunned, as if she carried with her some malignant

He replied, therefore, after hearing the story, that Elsie had always
given trouble. There seemed to be a kind of natural obliquity about
her. Perfectly unaccountable. A very dark case. Never amenable to good
influences. Had sent her good books from the Sunday-school library.
Remembered that she tore out the frontispiece of one of them, and kept
it, and flung the book out of the window. It was a picture of Eve's
temptation; and he recollected her saying that Eve was a good
woman,--and she'd have done just so, if she'd been there. A very sad
child,--very sad; bad from infancy.--He had talked himself bold, and
said all at once,--

"Doctor, do you know I am almost ready to accept your doctrine of the
congenital sinfulness of human nature? I am afraid that is the only
thing which goes to the bottom of the difficulty."

The old minister's face did not open as approvingly as Mr. Fairweather
had expected.

"Why, yes,--well,--many find comfort in it,--I believe;--there is much
to be said,--there are many bad people,--and bad children,--I can't
be so sure about bad babies,--though they cry very malignantly at
times,--especially if they have the stomach-ache. But I really don't
know how to condemn this poor Elsie; she may have impulses that act
in her like instincts in the lower animals, and so not come under the
bearing of our ordinary rules of judgment."

"But this depraved tendency, Doctor,--this unaccountable perverseness.
My dear Sir, I am afraid your school is in the right about human nature.
Oh, those words of the Psalmist, 'shapen in iniquity,' and the rest!
What are we to do with them,--we who teach that the soul of a child is
an unstained white tablet?"

"King David was very subject to fits of humility, and much given to
self-reproaches," said the Doctor, in a rather dry way. "We owe you and
your friends a good deal for calling attention to the natural graces,
which, after all, may, perhaps, be considered as another form of
manifestation of the divine influence. Some of our writers have pressed
rather too hard on the tendencies of the human soul toward evil as such.
It may be questioned whether these views have not interfered with the
sound training of certain young persons, sons of clergymen and others.
I am nearer of your mind about the possibility of educating children so
that they shall become good Christians without any violent transition.
That is what I should hope for from bringing them up 'in the nurture and
admonition of the Lord.'"

The younger minister looked puzzled, but presently answered,--

"Possibly we may have called attention to some neglected truths; but,
after all, I fear we must go to the old school, if we want to get at the
root of the matter. I know there is an outward amiability about many
young persons, some young girls especially, that seems like genuine
goodness; but I have been disposed of late to lean toward your view,
that these human affections, as we see them in our children,--ours, I
say, though I have not the fearful responsibility of training any of my
own,--are only a kind of disguised and sinful selfishness."

The old minister groaned in spirit. His heart had been softened by
the sweet influences of children and grandchildren. He thought of
a half-sized grave in the burial-ground, and the fine, brave,
noble-hearted boy he laid in it thirty years before,--the sweet,
cheerful child who had made his home all sunshine until the day when he
was brought home, his long curls dripping, his fresh lips purpled in
death,--foolish dear little blessed creature to throw himself into the
deep water to save the drowning boy, who clung about him and carried him
under! Disguised selfishness! And his granddaughter too, whose disguised
selfishness was the light of his household!

"Don't call it my view!" he said, "Abstractly, perhaps, all Nature may
be considered vitiated; but practically, as I see it in life, the divine
grace keeps pace with the perverted instincts from infancy in many
natures. Besides, this perversion itself may often be disease, bad
habits transmitted, like drunkenness, or some hereditary misfortune, as
with this Elsie we were talking about."

The younger minister was completely mystified. At every step he made
towards the Doctor's recognized theological position, the Doctor took
just one step towards his. They would cross each other soon at this
rate, and might as well exchange pulpits,--as Colonel Sprowle once
wished they would, it may be remembered.

The Doctor, though a much clearer-headed man, was almost equally
puzzled. He turned the conversation again upon Elsie, and endeavored
to make her minister feel the importance of bringing every friendly
influence to bear upon her at this critical period of her life. His
sympathies did not seem so lively as the Doctor could have wished.
Perhaps he had vastly more important objects of solicitude in his own
spiritual interests.

A knock at the door interrupted them. The Reverend Mr. Fairweather rose
and went towards it. As he passed the table, his coat caught something,
which came rattling to the floor. It was a crucifix with a string of
beads attached. As he opened the door, the Milesian features of Father
McShane presented themselves, and from their centre proceeded the
clerical benediction in Irish-sounding Latin, _Pax vobiscum!_

The Reverend Doctor Honeywood rose and left the priest and his disciple

* * * * *


_Autobiographical Recollections_. By the late CHARLES ROBERT LESLIE,
R.A. Edited, with a Prefatory Essay on Leslie as an Artist, and
Selections from his Correspondence, by TOM TAYLOR, Esq., Editor of the
"Autobiography of Haydon." With Portrait. Boston: Ticknor & Fields.
1860. pp. lviii., 363.

Those who remember the excellent judgment with which Mr. Taylor selected
his material for the Autobiography of Haydon from the papers left by
that artist need not be told that this work is executed with spirit and
discrimination. It is a delicate task to publish just so much of the
letters and reminiscences of a man lately dead as shall consist with
good taste and gentlemanly feeling, to discriminate between legitimate
anecdote and what at second-hand becomes tale-bearing gossip, and not to
break faith with the dead by indiscreet confidences about the living.
If the dead have any privilege, it ought to be that of holding their
tongues; yet an unseemly fashion has prevailed lately of making
them gabble for years in Diaries, Remains, Correspondences, and
Recollections, perpetuating in a solid telltale record all they may
have said and written thoughtlessly or in a momentary pet, giving to a
fleeting whim the printed permanence of a settled opinion, and robbing
the grave of what is sometimes its only consoling attribute, the dignity
of reserve. We know of no more unsavory calling than this, unless it be
that of the Egyptian dealers in mummy, peddling out their grandfathers
to be ground into pigment. Obsequious to the last moment, the jackal
makes haste to fill his belly from the ribs of his late lion almost
before he is cold.

Mr. Taylor is too manly and well-bred to be guilty of any indiscretions,
much more of any indecencies. He let Haydon tell his own story, nor
assumed the function of a judge. And wisely, as we think; for, commonly,
when men take it upon themselves uncalled, their inability to conceive
the special weakness that is not theirs, (and which, perhaps, was but
the negative of a strength equally alien to them.) their humanly narrow
and often professionally back-attic view of character and circumstance,
their easy after-dinner superiority to what was perhaps a loathing
compromise with famine and the jail, fit them rather for the office of
_advocatus diaboli_ than of the justice which must be all-seeing that it
may be charitable. It is so hard to see that a sin is sometimes but a
thwarted and misdirected virtue! When Burns sighed that "the light that
led astray was light from Heaven," he was but unconsciously repeating
what a poet who of all men least needed the apology had said centuries

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest